HL Deb 14 May 1861 vol 162 cc2044-5

wished to put a question to his noble Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs relative to the proposed cession of San Domingo to the Spanish Crown. He wished to know, Whether that cession had received the sanction of the British and French Governments; and, above all, whether due precautions had been taken to prevent the possibility of the introduction of Spanish slavery—that accursed system which degraded and disgraced the Spanish Government in Cuba—into the island of San Domingo? He thought this would be a favourable opportunity to call for the repayment by Spain of that money which she received from us on the undertaking to abolish her own slave trade; her slave trade not having been abolished, she was bound to return the price paid to her, or instantly to give liberty to the captives introduced under the prohibited traffic. It was most painful to consider that at this moment there was very great chance, from circumstances to which he need not refer, of the slave trade receiving an additional impetus. Sixty years since, au dux que juventâ, he had proclaimed his opinion that there was a very great difference between abolishing the slave traffic and giving freedom to the slave. He laid it down, then, that although their first sympathy was duo to the slave, their next fellow-feeling was due to his master, who was possessed of slaves by crimes not of his own committing, they having descended to him from other persons. He repeated the same doctrine now. There were meetings being held in this country which he entirely deprecated—meetings which ought not to be held—meetings at one of which six or seven weeks ago he had himself promised to preside; but when, after what had taken place in the United States, he found that it was called a meeting on American slavery, he said on no account—by no means whatever—would he have anything to do with holding, presiding, or attending a meeting of that description. He strongly recommended all whom his voice might reach to abstain from holding such meetings. At the present moment it could not fail to do great mischief in our relations to America, if anything like agitation took place on a question whereupon the Americans of the South, and almost all Americans, were peculiarly sensitive and jealous; it would be the worst possible calamity, and might endanger the peace of the country without serving the slave, but rather postponing indefinitely his liberation.


was understood to say that the Spanish Government had not yet taken any definitive resolution with regard to the cession of San Domingo to the Spanish Crown. They were awaiting further information. There was reason, however, to believe that if the offered cession met with the concurrence generally of the population the Spanish Government would accept the annexation of the Spanish part of the island. Whether that would be for the advantage of Spain or not was entirely a matter for the Spanish Government to decide; but the House would naturally feel great interest in the question which had been put by his noble and learned Friend, that slavery would not be reintroduced into the ceded territory. He was glad, therefore, to inform their Lordships that the Spanish Government had assured Her Majesty's Government that it was not their intention to allow slavery to be introduced into the eastern part of San Domingo. He might add that even if slavery were to be introduced into the eastern part of the island of San Domingo it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain it as long as the western part was free.